These boys deserve so much more than I can give them

Six years after adopting two boys, Michelle Brau was still unable to form a bond with them. Now they're in a new home. She may have suffered a condition many still don't understand: post-adoption depression

By Adriana Barton

June 9, 2009 / the

The minute she laid eyes on her adopted son, a seven-month-old Guatemalan boy, Michelle Brau knew something was wrong, she says.

Instead of joy, she felt dread. Instead of wanting to comfort the infant, she found herself not wanting him at all.

The negative emotions blindsided her, Ms. Brau says. She and her husband, Jim, had yearned to adopt and add to their family of four biological kids.

"I love children," says Ms. Brau, who lives in Springville, Utah.

But she couldn't bring herself to love her healthy new son, nor a second boy, aged 2, whom the couple adopted from Guatemala months later.

Ms. Brau says she assumed her affection for them would grow with time. For more than five years, however, she avoided their hugs and was more strict with them than with her other children, she recalls.

Consumed by guilt and shame, she told no one about her inability to bond with the adopted boys.

"I felt like a monster," she says. "I longed to be dead."

When she finally confided in her husband six months ago, he did some research online and concluded she had post-adoption depression, a condition being studied by researchers but not yet recognized as a psychiatric disorder.

According to adoption professionals, post-adoption depression can range in severity from a few weeks of the blues to a major depression that lasts months or longer. Like postpartum depression, it may bring intense feelings of anxiety and guilt, fantasies of running away, and suicidal thoughts.

Ms. Brau consulted two therapists, she says, but her feelings of desperation did not change.

So this spring - nearly six years after they adopted the Guatemalan children - the Braus contacted an agency to find them a new adoptive home.

"These boys deserve so much more than I can give them," Ms. Brau says, adding that her depression has lifted since the adoption was dissolved last month. "I feel like me again."

The Braus' case may be extreme but the potential consequences of post-adoption depression are recognized by a growing number of adoption professionals.

Left untreated, it can lead to the breakdown of the adoption, says Brenda McCreight, an adoption counsellor in Nanaimo, B.C. "I've seen it break up marriages too."

Post-adoption depression didn't have a name until 15 years ago, and it remains a new area of research. Early studies suggest it's "as prevalent, or more so, than postpartum depression," says Karen Foli, who co-authored The Post-Adoption Blues with her husband John Thompson, a child psychiatrist.

A study published last month in the peer-reviewed Journal of Affective Disorders found the rate of depression in women after adoption was about 15 per cent - the same rate found in women who have given birth.

Dr. Foli, a professor of nursing at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., is partway through a study to assess whether the tools used to diagnose postpartum depression are valid to screen for post-adoption depression. Unlike mothers with postpartum depression, who have a biological explanation for their bleak mood, adoptive mothers cannot attribute their depression to a sudden drop in estrogen levels (although some researchers suggest that nurturing an adopted child may trigger hormonal changes).

"We desperately need to understand it more," she says.

The syndrome appears to be more common in women than in men, Dr. Foli says, since women tend to be the primary caregivers. Stress, sleep deprivation, lack of social support and a history of depression can put women at greater risk for post-adoption depression, according to experts in the field.

Also, many adoptive mothers have no parenting experience, notes Sandra Scarth, president of the Adoption Council of Canada. For a career woman who has enjoyed years of freedom, the demands of parenting can be a shock, especially if the child isn't attaching to her well.

"Suddenly she's home all day with a child who really doesn't like her very much," Ms. Scarth explains.

When depression strikes, adoptive mothers are often secretive about it. They feel pressure from family and friends to rejoice in the child they brought home after years of waiting, often at huge expense.

Most are reluctant to seek help from social workers, fearing the child may be taken away - an unlikely event, according to Dr. McCreight.

Nevertheless, an estimated 11 to 18 per cent of adoptions break down for various reasons during the probationary period (usually at least six months), according to American researchers, and about 2 per cent of adoptive families cannot cope after the adoption is finalized. In both cases, the child returns to child-welfare authorities and may be readopted.

As awareness of post-adoption depression grows, some agencies are addressing the syndrome in their pre-adoption training sessions. But people who long for children tend to believe it won't happen to them, says Dr. McCreight, who has adopted 12 times.

"We think we're going to be the most wonderful parents and we're going to form a family identity with no problem - and that's not going to happen."

The expectation of "falling in love" with a child at first sight may be unrealistic, according to Dr. Foli, since most relationships take time to blossom and mature.

But the guilt of not bonding with a child immediately can be "overwhelming," says Dr. Foli, who coped with depression after she adopted her daughter from India about 10 years ago.

For Dina Rodrigues, post-adoption guilt cut deep. She sank into melancholy and began to feel "really run down" a month after she brought her 11-month-old daughter, Sierra, home from China, she says.

Ms. Rodrigues had no problem caring for her daughter's physical needs, she recalls, but she worried she wasn't connecting with her emotionally.

"It's like you have this amazing, wonderful child and you can't really enjoy them," says Ms. Rodrigues, who lives in a suburb of Detroit.

Her anxiety intensified when her husband, Ashok, bonded with Sierra easily. "I just felt there was something wrong with me," she says.

Having suffered from depression earlier in life, Ms. Rodrigues says, she recognized the signs. Five months after the adoption, she saw a therapist and started taking antidepressants "for my daughter's sake."

When a parent gets depressed, it doesn't mean the adoption has failed, says Dr. McCreight. "It just means that you should get help, get it fixed and move on as a family."

Major depression requires prescription medication, she says. As well, a post-adoption counsellor can help parents find ways to get child care and emotional support.

After Ms. Rodrigues began treatment, her daughter fell ill with a stomach virus and wanted to be held by her day and night. The event marked a turning point in their relationship, Ms. Rodrigues says.

"I was able to be emotionally there for her, and I think she saw that."

That was two years ago, she adds, and they've had a close connection ever since.


Warning signs

Experts say post-adoption depression shares symptoms with postpartum depression:

Feeling sad, tearful, irritable

Self-imposed isolation from family, friends, spouse

Anger at the adopted child, spouse or other children for no apparent reason

Desire to leave home or have the adopted child removed

Loss of interest or pleasure in most activities

Significant changes in appetite and sex drive

Insomnia or a marked increase in sleep

Fatigue, lack of energy

Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

Thoughts of suicide

Average: 6 (1 vote)

Why the reversal?

When reading the article I noticed a weird reversal.

But she couldn't bring herself to love her healthy new son, nor a second boy, aged 2, whom the couple adopted from Guatemala months later.

That's what is being told about this adoptive mother, but then in the expert opinion it transforms in:

"Suddenly she's home all day with a child who really doesn't like her very much," Ms. Scarth explains.

Why is that? Why is all of a sudden the child the cause of the depression? Didn't it start with a mother unable to love her adopted child? Then why the need to transfer that to a child that doesn't like the adoptive mother all that much?

I am Michelle Brau from

I am Michelle Brau from Utah, We spent thousands of personal
finances, not to mention emotion and other assets to rescue two
beautiful little boys from utter destitution, starvation, prostitution
and other unthinkable horrors. I don't understand what happened to me,
but enduring a life of rejection and aching as a child to feel love, I
refused to on account of my pride or "condition" let these precious
little boys go through what I have. I could not fix what I was
feeling. I could not force it, I could not pretend anymore. I
exhausted every avenue there was that I could find, no matter what I
did I could not change in spite of the harsh judgments of
others, I did something unpopular..something that was to be looked
upon as evil, selfish, or disgraceful. I found a permanent home for
Jacob and Joseph. Their mother is emotionally capable of embracing
these children with all her heart. Do I anguish that it couldn't be
me...? of coarse I do. We have been a steeping stone in their lives.
We acted as foster parents and gave them so much more than they would
have had abandon on the streets in Guatemala. They weren't "dumped"
they were loved fiercely. The cruel judgments people make on others
from ignorance is debilitating to those the children
especially! I am so thankful to know that we did all we could to give
these beautiful boys a safe and happy life. They were well cared for
and had many incredible opportunities to progress. They will continue
to thrive because they are now in a new phase of growth where there is
pure nurturing and acceptance. It's amazing how love can heal and
they are so very loved! I only ask that you not judge others unless
you have walked a foot in their shoes. It's tempting to point and
finger, to criticize, but it does nothing good to fix the problem or
help lift or comfort another.

Every person's situation is different, and the truth is that for some
people, even giving up their birth children should be an option. We
all know people who grew up unloved by their parents, people who would
have been better off with some other family. And sometimes, adoptions
do get disrupted. So yes, in exceptional circumstances, I understand
that moving the kids to another family is the right thing for the

My question though is why go public with something like this?

The kids are young now, but pretty soon they'll be on the Web - and so
will all their peers. Everyone will know their story. I can't think
that's a really good thing for them. I only hope no one posts the name
of their new family or location. I think they deserve their privacy.

You are so right! Every situation is different. I think my emotional
health would have been better off if I had been in a different home.
It wasn't an option for me. I would also like to add that if I felt
emotional numbness towards my bio children, it would be in their best
interest that I let them go to a family that can give them nurturing
and affection. I would place them for adoption. I know what
emotional neglect feels like, I could never continue to perpetuate
that on another human being.

Why go public? In my (our) quest to understand these feelings that I
did not understand, that frightend me, I have discovered countless
people from all over the world that
are suffereing as I have. My purpose to go public is to try and
somehow let others know they are not alone, that this "condition" is
experienced by more of the adoption community then people are willing
to think. I'm sure not all are to the extreme and duration as mine-
but it is out there. I also know there have been countless adoption
success stories, beautiful stories of hope and healing! If people can
get help early on, (with out the fear of horrendous judgements being
flung at them), if there is education and screening for pre-adoptive
parents, I hope it can help in some small way to prevent futher
suffering... for the children and the adoptive parents as well. I
would never discourage an adoption, it would be helpful to know that
this are potential risks, and that there are things to be aware of
and informed of. That there are resources that specialize in this
area! We found one book on this subject PADS, and two essays of
adoptive mothers that struggled feeling the motherly love after
adopting...that was all we could find. As I said, there are hundreds
if not thousands that suffer in silence. The children will eventually
feel what is lacking. They may be able to go on living healthy
emotional lives...but they may not?

The biggest factor I find as to why there is just not any information
out there this subject is because of fear of the judgments of others.
The people,which are MANY, that I have discussed this with are
terrified of what their families, friends, community, church and other
social circles will think of them for feeling these emotions. If
people don't talk about this there can be no research, or information
to help. I

People who know me and our family have been nothing but kind and
supportive. They know it has been a difficult journey for us all.
They are full of love and have helped with incredible compassion.
People who read this article..that was posted about our story, the
three sentences about me and the ruthless woman that I am, have come
out of the wood work to throw "raw sewage" at my name. I'm sure this
situation causes a lot of inner turmoil for others to try and
understand how any human being could do such a thing, especially to
children, is so hard to understand! Believe me, I've wanted nothing
more than to make it work. I want all the children to have a
chance. I want families to talk. To pretend and hide what a person
does not understand can actually cause more harm as I personally have
The boys are still small. We let them know they did NOTHING wrong.
We were open with them, they will grow, and thankfully we will be
invited to learn of their progress. I hope someday they will discover
these postings. Hopefully it will validate to them as they read and
begin to understand, that this situation had nothing to do with who
they are, but an affliction I had. That they will be able to see that
no matter what anyone had to say, it was about them getting to a
emotionally stable and thriving environment for them to excel. They
are such beautiful little boys. I could live with myself and my
personal struggle, but I could not live with the knowledge that they
never felt completely accepted by me. Even though I longed, yearned
and desired that with all my heart.

I would never expose them, or their new family. That will always
remain private. I did let the woman who wrote about us in the
article, post a picture so that people could see that everything looks
happy, and for the most part it was for every one, except me. There
are people hurting. There are human beings that are yearning for the
right things like complete unconditional acceptance and love. I know
Jake and Jo are now getting this and this makes my heart rejoice.

a few questions

Thank you for sharing your story Michelle. I can very much relate to what you write and precisely because of that, I am so very critical about the adoption system. It may be in the boys best interest they live with a family now that can love them more than you do, but it would have been better if they'd been placed with that family in the first place.

I would really like to know how you could have been prevented in the first place to adopt these boys? What could adoption placement specialists have done differently to find the appropriate family for those boys?

Thank you first for not

Thank you first for not being critical towards me as a person.

Your question as to how I could have been prevented from adopting in the first place is at the core as to why I went public with this devastating issue. Not in my wildest dreams would I ever have considered this would be a situation we would ever have to endure.

In the six weeks of the pre-adoption classes, and discussions with our case worker, and the other adoption workers, not once were we counseled that there could be this problem. The feelings I had were foreign and frightening to me. After years of working to bring these children into our home, how do I dare tell anyone what I was feeling? In my own mind I was already scared of the person I was for feeling the way I was..I. hated myself beyond words for feeling these feelings of rejection for another human being...pure and innocent. I was terrified of what my husband, family, friends, and social circles would think of me..I already despised myself. I was scared that the human services would come and take my children away if I shared how I felt. I'm sure I could have gotten help sooner...but, the fact of the matter is, I didn't know where to turn, or what to do...
I now know there are so many, who like me, are silent. There needs to be information out there to help prevent these situations in the first place. I know several people who have adopted and felt the way I have. Many work through the darkest parts and have come out feeling like the adoption will be o.k. Many have expressed feelings that they will never love their adopted child like their bios, but feel that if they give them a safe place to grow, food, an education...they will be o.k. (and they probably will) I on the other hand, most likely from my own childhood suffering, could not continue feeling on my end that they were not getting the intense love that I longed for as a child.

There are people who have adopted who can give their adopted children everything. Their whole hearts. Our little boys needed this...I searched the world over to find a way to be the one. It wasn't meant to be. I have to keep reassuring myself that we were meant to be a stepping stone in these little boy's life. There is no way their permanent family could have afforded to get them to this country. Their mother has sobbed as she has thanked us for getting them to this point in their lives. That she will be eternally thankful that we cared for them and protected them until their family was ready.

What can be the tell tell signs that there is a potential risk for this occurring in future adoptions? I'm on a personal quest to find this out. I truly don't know. Do you have any experience in this area? None of my therapist had any clue. We contacted several adoption agencies for help, they didn't know what to tell us. If more people would come forward, there could be more research in the area. More information available...I just don't know the answer to your question.

If you have any ideas...I would love to hear them and find a way to prevent this from happening in the future!

Mourning the loss

I have several thoughts on this topic....

I grew-up in an Ahome where my Amother was depressed, for many reasons.  She was depressed because of her own childhood; she was depressed because of her marriage; she was depressed because of her infertility.... she was depressed about MANY things.  I believe my Afather was depressed, too.... but pride got in his way.  His depression manifested itself in pure anger.

Did any of this "stuff" get discussed before my adoption was made final?  Did my Aparents mourn all their losses before they adopted a new child into their dysfunctional family? I seriously doubt it.  Even more disturbing.... I seriously doubt the agency they used even asked much about their families and their pasts. 

I look back, and I can honestly say, I hated that place that became my chosen Ahome.  It was NOT a home; it was a prison... this prison had a facade that looked very much like a very nice house on a very nice street, and that facade housed two adults who seemed like very nice well-adjusted people.... at least that was the image most people got to see.  I think about that, (and all the well-kept family secrets), and it puts my stomach into knots. 

When I got  married and pregnant, I was terrified.  I did not want children -- never did -- but I felt obligated... pressured to perform, like I always did.  Because I was adopted, failure as a mom could NOT be an option.  [No pressure, eh?]

As book-smart as I was, I was NOT emotionally prepared for all the changes that were coming my way.  I was NOT prepared for all the demons that wiggled their way back to me, face-to-face.  As much as I understood the concept of good wifely-duty and good parenting, it's not anything I actually knew first-hand or experienced by visual example.... contrary to adoption's fairy-tale selling-point that Afamilies are (always) much better and safer than first-families.  But how could I admit that to anyone?  Holy crap.... I look back.... and I realize NOW just how scared, how unsupported and how really unprepared I really was when I first got married and got pregnant.

For some reason, many people tend to think marriage is bliss and motherhood is an instinct.

Newsflash, folks... it's not..... NOT if you have never experienced a good marriage or good parenting examples.  Love, nurturing, and all the stuff that goes with it needs to be taught.... it needs to be learned... and MOST OF ALL.... it needs to be exampled, encouraged and supported, and not just role-played for the sake of public  applause and opinion.

I no longer judge unhappy couples or "bad parents"... I simply look at them as yet another generation of people who have not been taught, helped, encouraged and told, "It's completely understandable... you are the way you are because that's all you have known, seen and experienced."  True, many "bad parents" may in fact be mentally ill, (caused by a variety of reasons)... but preserving human dignity has to start somewhere, doesn't it?

I can respect the person who knows his/her limits and says:  "You know what?  I can't do this!  I need HELP!!!!"  I can't respect the person who tries to save-face by faking happiness and competence,  pretending all is well within the four-walls, when in fact, home is nothing more than a living-hell.  I wish more people from abusive families would come forward and say they need help with family-relationships before they get married and start their own version of "a fresh new start" (family).  I wish people would be honest with themselves and with others, and remember what it's like to be a child.... remember what it is a child wants and needs.  I wish so many kids did NOT have to be taken away/removed  because "mommy/daddy" could not prove they were worthy of a parent's role and title. 

Last but not least, I wish ALL adoption agencies would try harder to make sure Aparents were more than "more of the same". Yes, there are some very good agencies out there that put each child's needs first, and yet... there are still far too many adoption agencies far too interested in the money that can be made with each single placement.

If those money-seeking agencies were all put out-of business.... well, let me just say, I would NOT mourn the loss.

are there really good agencies?

I honestly don't believe there are some very good agencies out there. There may be people working for or even running adoption agencies that want to work according to high ethical standards, but in reality they can't. Adoption is a commercial activity, even when done by non-profits, and the demands of the market place don't allow agencies to adhere to the strictest policies possible. It would simply put them out of work. Why would PAP's go to an agency that refuses half of the applicants when another agency accepts almost all of them. Why would PAP's go to an agency that uses a careful approach costing months of preparation, when another agency can deliver a child in several months without much hassle. Well intentioned agencies have to comply using lower standards to stay in business. Their argument to do so is probably, if they don't stay in business only profit driven agencies will remain.


The way I see it, this problem will persists unless the adoption system get's rebuilt from the ground up. The reason why dissolution and disruption happen so often as they do is because domestic infant adoption and inter-country adoption is a commercial activity. Of course those working in the field will deny that and claim they seek families for children, but those are mere words. Reality is that prospective adoptive parents pay a lot of money to fulfill their dream of having children in their home and agencies help prospective adoptive parents to realize that dream in exchange for money. No matter how it is sugar coated, adoption in it's current form is legalized sales of children.

As long as adoption is a commercial activity it is in the interest of agencies to please their customers and do everything in their power to make the transaction happen. That's why a substantial number of adoptions don't work out. That's why despite "screening" (which I believe doesn't really happen) there are a substantial number of abuse cases in adoptive families. It is not in the interest of adoption agencies to screen, they will lose business to agencies that are less strict.

The only way adoption agencies will respond to the issues you describe is when they can charge for services. For Post Adoption Depression or whatever diagnosis can be given, a counseling program can be designed and I wouldn't be surprised if some people have already established expensive treatment practices. If there is a market for it, there will be services available. Prevention doesn't generate an income and it hinders business, so adoption agencies are in no way encouraged to prevent misplacements. There is initial money to be made when doing the placement anyway and in case it doesn't work out there is even money to be made treating the symptoms of the mess created.

That's how I see the adoption system. The people working in the field may not all have bad intentions, but the way adoption is organized encourages malpractices and punishes ethical behaviour. As a result all good intentions do nothing more than pave the road to hell.

To share is to educate

Hi Niels,

I wonder what you mean when you say you can "relate" to Michelle's story. I ask that because you are saying that "it would have been better if they'd been placed with that family in the first place" and that you would "like to know how [Michelle] could have been prevented in the first place to adopt." I think that comment shows a misunderstanding of perhaps not the situation, but definitely Michelle's sharing of the story. I am a mother who went through postpartum depression after giving birth. I struggled for over six months with debilitating depression and thoughts of harming my son, even though I was taking antidepressants (which I had never done before). For the first five months at least, I wanted to give him up for adoption. I am so glad I didn't. For me, time and talk therapy got me to the point where I could enjoy my son, and then care for him. Now I have no more trouble being a parent than any other parent does- my son is a wonderful, naughty and intelligent 15 month old!

Michelle's point in sharing her story is so that other people who are experiencing post-adoption depression can get the help they need and they might even turn out to be good, caring parents. I realize that there is another set of issues that comes along with adoption and that doing what's best for the child is most important. On the other hand, I also know that there is no better home for my son than with me. Many adoptive parents come to feel that way too, even if they don't at the beginning. I think that Teddy's story is one good example.


In everything I write, there is one aspect I take as primary: the best interest of the child. In my opinion the best interest is served by requiring as few placements as is reasonably possible. So when I hear about a disruption, my first thought is: how did the preparation for adoption take place? Did adoption workers do their best to place the child with the most suitable family?

The above article was posted to tell a story of how one specific disruption took place. Many of the articles on this website deal with specific situations in child placement that don't end up being child's best interest. This was one such story.

I very much appreciated Michelle's contribution to this thread, but chose to address the issue from the view-point of what our website stands for. As much as I can have sympathy for every person's sorrow, our dedication is towards children in the placement system. Michelle's story to me reads about boys first being placed in a family where they were not loved, to then be placed with yet another family. That's not something I consider in the child's best interest. It would have been better, had adoption been in the best interest of these boys, to directly be placed with a family where they could stay and who were able to love them. So given Michelle's willingness to comment on the story, I took the opportunity to ask her some questions about the preparation for this adoption.

Finally, I think Teddy's story tells me how many adoptions should not have taken place at all. I admire Teddy and greatly appreciate her insights and relentless contribution to this site, but if one person could testify how badly screened and prepared adoption parents can be, then it's Teddy. If one person shows how the mere will to adopt is enough to receive children, then it's Teddy. Given she has these children and now has to face the consequences and take the best care of them she can, I wholeheartedly support her in her efforts, but in the end I believe it should have been prevented in the first place.

I believe Teddy shares her stories, to educate people about how adoption should not be.

What about the innocent? Who

What about the innocent? Who are cought in the middle of it. What about those who are stolen and sold to others?

Is it fair that 5 children are victimized... when only one really needed to be taken into the system?

Please don't condemn the innocent just to help one child. Cause in the end it's not helping anyone... except those who wanted a child and didn't care where it came from.

A reason or an excuse?

Something bothers me very much about this new-label made for AP's.  In the past, I know many children have been put in-care because the mother is depressed.  [The story about Joel Domingues comes to mind, and it makes me very sad to know a child had to suffer such terrible abuse because the drive to adopt is so huge.]  As one who suffered post-partum depression three times, I know how scary those first few weeks can be.  Lucky for me, I had an excellent gyno, fantastic pediatricians, and I knew what I was getting into before I agreed to put my body through the hormonal wringers known as pregnancy and motherhood..  Of course, few could prepare me for what I went through, but I chalk that up to good ol fashion unresolved adoption issues.... the kind few want to talk about when the adoptee becomes pregnant.   Nevertheless, I read stories about mothers with post-partum depression, and because of my own post-birth-history, I am able to feel a tremendous amount of empathy for those lost without a single clue.

I have trouble reading about adoption-related depression, because I'm not sure if that's a reason or an excuse to follow-through with an Adoption Disruption.  Either way, if the adoptive mother thinks SHE is depressed, what does she think (once she's feeling all better) that child sent-away is thinking day-after-day?

depression after adoption...

I can relate to the story of the woman and her depression and hope this helps:
I adopted a 6 month old from Korea, and within 7 months was in the process of adopting a new infant from Guatemala.  I believe there was not enough time for the bonding and forming of the family before the second adoption was started.  It was two different agencies and the adoptions happened very quickly.
My first son was a very "easy" child; if you understand that means he was very cooperative in most situations which made the bonding easy for me.  My second son was the opposite.  He was left to lay for the first three months of his life before coming home; and my experience in Guatemala was dreadful... which, I suppose caused me to think of him and dreadfulness in the same context. 
Most agencies require the first child to be in the home for one year before even starting on a second adoption; but that rule is bent very often, to the detriment of the child and the home.  I now fully understand why that requirement is there.  And I might add that maybe there should be even more time in between adoptions; especially when the children are babies who need a lot of time and one-on-one.
My first son was 13 months old when they called to say my second son was born.  There was some illegal stuff done in order to "use" the first home-study for the second adoption; and even more illegal stuff was done in Guatemala for the adoption to go through; which I find has been going on for years.  My trip to Guatemala involved my leaving my first son with my mother; contracting Dysentery in Guatemala; coming home to a stay in the hospital...  I was depressed.  So the first year, after my second son arrived from Guatemala was a horrible experience for all of us.  He was entirely different than my first son because of personality and the way he was treated for three months in Guatemala.  I have always told my sons this: the first one made me a mommy while the second taught me to love more than one child.
I almost backed out of the second adoption after the first few months of my son's arrival.  It was NOT his fault.  He was adorable, and he bonded to my husband immediately; which caused me great distress and yet it was a relief.  My depression was the result of my great expectations of this second son...  I was so naive to believe all adoptions and all children were like my first son. 
A friend of mine took my second son for three weeks in order for me to have the space to really see what was happening.  When I picked him up, I was able to accept his difference and see how much I really wanted to love and bond to him.  He became the light of my life; and if we have favorite children (each different in their own right) then he was always my favorite.  I found him to be more like me; which may be the reason we butted heads for the first year.  I've talked to many adoptive mothers since then and have heard many similar stories (which they do not tell others) with families who adopted so closely.
What I see in this story is this:  People with biological children, who go into adoption, are similar to my experience because they find themselves "comparing" the adopted child to their biological experience.  And people who have no bio children and adopt one right after another, seem to experience the first child as the great answer to prayers, while the quickly adopted second child comes as a great shock in that they are so different than what is expected.  We all have expectations of our children, but adopted children bring even more differences than expected.  I think adoptive parents have these ideals of the perfect child that can cause depression when they realize that there are no perfect children.  The joy of adoption is learning to accept each child as an individual, worthy of love and acceptance.
I also experienced some depression in a few of the other adoptions, but in no way was it the fault of the child.  I made decisions concerning those children that changed their lives forever.  I was responsible for and obligated to do something about my own depression.  I regret blaming my second baby for the horrors I went through in the Guatemalan adoption.  I learned from that experience that the child is the blessing and the circumstances are part of the adoption process.  I made huge mistakes, but can honestly say we are a family that was worth it all. 
Even my oldest (18) daughter says she would not change the abuse because she holds family so dear, now.  I don't claim to understand that, only from a mother's view of this journey and to say that I am very happy with my family the way it is.  The past is gone and we can not change it; but the future does hold happiness that I don't think we could appreciate without what we went through.
Yes, it could have been different; and my heart aches for the losses we have known.  The only thing I can do is go forward.
A very different Teddy...

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Post-adoption depression likely just as real

I think that though postpartum depression certainly has more chemical triggers than post-adoption depression, I can't assume that there aren't valid cases of post-adoption depression. The mind is a strange thing that nobody truly understands yet, and I know that my postpartum depression was real even though there were plenty of people telling me to get over it and care for my son.

I am able to care for my son now at least partly because I had other people supporting me, validating my feelings, and allowing me to heal in my own time. I think that this situation can happen for adoptive parents too- in fact, I know it has, from related stories on the postpartum depression website I frequent.

Post-adoption depression vs postpartum depression

APs were already comparing the adoption process to a pregnancy before the term "post-adoption depression" came out.

Some  complains that "paper pregnancy" is even more difficult than usual pregnancy because it takes more than 9 months while others talk about the joy of having children "born in their heart".

On personal level, my adoptive mother always said she felt the pain of childbirth on the day of my arrival ( Ouch! ouch! poor mother, I was 9 years old and 45 pounds).

I don't deny post-adoption depression is a reality, but personally I don't like the term because it always brings the subject of postpartum depression. Then post-adoption depression, like postpartum depression, is all about the new mother having depression after giving "birth" to (adopting) a child.

Symptoms of depression might be the same in both cases, but in the case of post-adoption depression, there is not only the adoptive mother on the stage.

I'm not an adoptive mother, but I also have suffered of post-adoption depression as an adoptee. Particularly  during the six first months after my arrival, I wished to be dead, I cried and prayed silently each night to go back to my homeland, but nobody acknowledge my post-adoption depression. 
I was told by my birth sisters that our father died three years after losing me as liver disease by drinking too much. Maybe, my birth father have also suffered of post-adoption depression.

People and experts are failing to recognize that two other important members of the adoption triad might also be victim of post-adoption depression: the child and the birth parent.

Raising myself, and offering my hands

If I were listening to this as a speech given to a room full of people, you'd see me rising from my seat, saying a quiet "yes", followed by a huge long tear-filled loud sobbing applause.

I'm not an adoptive mother, but I also have suffered of post-adoption depression as an adoptee. Particularly  during the six first months after my arrival, I wished to be dead, I cried and prayed silently each night to go back to my homeland, but nobody acknowledge my post-adoption depression. 

A while back, I wrote about my own experience about post-partum-adoption depression.... for me it really hit when I became pregnant, myself.  It became worse when I was in the labor-room that very first time. 

I think it's the birthing room that separated me most from my adoptive mother.

I needed that time to be alone with my own thoughts about me, my own loss as an adoptee (my own mother and my own baby from my own body) but she, my adoptive mother, invited herself in the labor and delivery room because  as the role of Maternal Grandmother, she had that "right" to attend.  No, she didn't, she just assumed she did, as usual, and that really pissed me off.

My entire life, her role as my mom was always assumed as acceptable.

In my mind, it wasn't.   [ ]


However, if I were more open and honest, I can see and read how my first bout of depression manifested itself.  It can be seen in the papers I found documenting my first year with my New Family.  Readers can see how my body reacted that first year through piece by broken piece, and compare those descriptions with the known ways infants/toddlers exhibit grief

The language of adoption, with all it's rules of threes, does indeed seem to forget how neglected the child's thoughts and feelings are recognized and treated when adoption has become the chosen option.

coming in late...

Personally, I find it embarrassing to find adoptive mothers comparing their depression after adoption to that of the biological mother's post-partem depression.
There is very little comparison, due to the fact that adoption IS different than birthing a child.  Adoption is the result of MANY losses and heartaches, while birth is an act of God... YES, I HEAR ALL YOU ADOPTIVE MOTHERS yelling at me, telling me how GOD ordained your adoptions!  I beg to differ with you...  sometimes we beg and whine until God gives us the desires of our hearts when He KNOWS there will be more suffering than need be in giving them, but because He LOVES us He gives in and steps back to watch us learn from the experience.
ALL Adoptions are MADE to happen, while most births are planned in some way.  The depression of an adoptive mother is somehow the SHOCK of getting what they so forcefully demanded.  I can SO relate to getting the result of my STRONG and FORCEFUL longing to be a mother; each time was different, yet in no way do I compare it to giving birth, while some may.
Being the adoptive mother of 7 children, I can, from this point of view, see the depression of the the adopted child in 7 same but different ways, and it is a very real emotion that they all went through.  My question is this:  did you, as a biologic mother, see any stress in your birthed babies that could compare in any way to the separation anxiety my adopted children suffered, and that you suffered as the adopted child?
Kerry, I read your paperwork and it was SO like the papers I received on each of my adopted children.  What struck me most was how you were documented as the "failure to thrive" baby who progressed to the "angry baby" and then the child who had to accept the losses...  who then arrived in the home of people who had not dealt with their own losses of fertility and their own lacking childhoods.  No matter what people say, there are many reasons why people adopt, and one of those reasons is to plug a hole in their own lives.  There are MANY different holes, but each adoptive parent has one or many they are hoping to fill with an adopted child.  Your adoptive parents are not so different than myself, including starting out as a depressed human being searching for something.  The only difference is that I BELIEVED my daughter when she said she was abused...  I WANT to make a difference for my child.  All the rest leaves me a very lacking adoptive parent.
What I am learning here in this forum is that I CAN and HAVE changed.  We can talk all we want about the fact that most adoptions should not have taken place; that there should be HELP within the bio homes and less ripping of children from their first homes; but the fact remains there are families with adopted children who need HELP!  I am so relieved to hear women who HONESTLY admit they can not handle their adoptions after-the-fact and are seeking "better" for those children, instead of the many families who are continuing to struggle while the family is destroyed.  But I have to agree with Niels and say, "what can be done so these adoptions do not take place in the first place."
I've seen infant/child grief.  I was given NO heads-up that this could and does happen.  Our "training" was focused on mostly "positive" bull-shit and NOTHING on the reality of the losses these children are suffering when placed in their "new" homes.  I do remember being told to NOT take the child out to be "showed-off" so that the child could get "used-to" the new family; which NO adoptive parent I knew ever listened to... they were all taken EVERYWHERE and showed-off.  And looking back, I can remember the shock in the child's eyes as they were passed around.  At the time, it didn't sink in how much trauma each child was suffering, wondering just WHO they belonged to and when the pain would stop.  But how does a tiny child express the loss and pain so that it makes sense to the new family?  And I wonder how little Kimette could have EVER gotten through to the older "adoptive mother" just how much pain and loss was behind her silence.
I find this a very interesting subject...

What did I ever do to deserve this... Teddy

Pound Pup Legacy